Fishing: Ben Habib says relationship with France is ‘unbalanced’
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France has threatened to take forceful action against the UK and cut Britain’s power as relations between the two countries turn bitter concerning fishing permits for Jersey post-Brexit. France claims it has tried “being nice” and stronger action is needed – but the UK has said it would “never trust them again” if Paris pulled the plug on Britain’s power. In total, 35 French fishing boats were denied licences over the summer by Jersey with Britain claiming the others lacked sufficient evidence.
Ministers today dismissed French threats to cut Britain’s power.
European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune accused the UK of failing to adhere to the Brexit deal.
The escalation this week was taken in response to the UK refusal to grant fishing licences to most French fishermen who had applied last week.
Jersey granted licences to 12 small French boats out of 47 applications made over the summer – a move which angered French authorities and the fishing community in France.
However, Britain claims the majority of these vessels were denied licences because they failed to supply evidence they had fished in the six to 12 mile nautical stretch in the years before the 2016 referendum.
The European Affairs Minister said France “will not stand for this” adding the EU is gearing up to retaliate if remedial measures are not taken.
Mr Beaune told Europe One radio: “Enough already, we have an agreement negotiated by France, by Michel Barnier, and it should be applied 100 percent. It isn’t being.
“In the next few days – and I talked to my European counterparts on this subject yesterday – we will take measures at the European level or nationally, to apply pressure on the United Kingdom.”
He added: “We defend our interests. We do it nicely, and diplomatically, but when that doesn’t work, we take measures.”
Mr Beaune added the UK is dependent on European energy supply.
He said: “Since we’re talking about energy…the United Kingdom depends on our energy supplies. It thinks that it can live all alone, and bash Europe.
“For example, you could imagine the Channel Islands, where the United Kingdom depends on us for its energy supply.”
The Minister did not expand on how and when the nation intends to act on this threat – but it echoes an earlier threat made by Fisheries Minister Annick Girardin in May.
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The Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey are located close to France which therefore supplies them with electricity.
Two under-sea cables of the Interconnexion France-Angleterre (IFA) supply the UK with enough electricity to power three million homes.
This is more than the total amount generated by British wind farms.
These electricity interconnectors are high-voltage cables which connect the distribution systems of neighbouring countries allowing them to share excess power.
The connection between the UK and France was damaged last month by a fire and there are fears it will not be returned to full working capacity until March.
However, despite these threats, France is not able to cut off Britain’s power according to one Cabinet Minister.
The insider claimed Mr Beaune was making empty threats.
They said the British-French relationship would be devastated by such action and therefore the threats are meaningless.
The source told the MailOnline: “If France was to cut off our power supplies, we would just never use them again.
“Why would you ever go back to a provider who did that? Trust would be gone. They would be damaging themselves in the long-term.”
Fishing rights are a key bone of contention between the UK and France and were a major stumbling block for a post-Brexit trade accord between London and Brussels after the UK’s exit on January 1.
The dispute between Paris and London ignited again in May after a flotilla of 50 French trawlers massed in Saint Helier harbour on Jersey.
The protest sparked a bitter standoff and even saw France and Britain launch military vessels.
Last month Prime Minister Boris Johnson told France to “prenez un grip” and “donnez moi un break” in the row about the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal that tore up a separate French contract.
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